Capital project fundraising - the essentials

26 July 2022

Key considerations from fundraising experts to help your church run a successful capital fundraising campaign.

Vector image of men and women working as a team building something with green blocks

Capital fundraising campaigns raise large sums of money for building maintenance or large projects. Running a capital campaign can sometimes feel overwhelming – it can require a significant investment of time and resource.

To help make the process simpler and more successful for your church, we’ve pulled together 5 key considerations from fundraising experts.

1. Planning is the most important stage

As the adage goes, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. With capital fundraising campaigns, the importance of planning is central to ensure your project runs smoothly and successfully.

Take the time to thoroughly plan your project and ensure the following elements are thought through before you start raising money:

  • The why – it’s essential to be able to understand, and be able to justify, the need for the project. Is it part of your mission? Is it urgent? Is it something you should be doing? The ‘why’ will be the basis of all your fundraising asks – so it’s important you have evidence of the need for your project.
  • The what – this focuses down on what your project will achieve, the benefits it will bring, and the predicted impact on your community.
  • Community needs – it’s vital to consider the wider needs of your community. If your project is meeting a wider community need, then you are more likely to receive support from those outside of your church.
  • Partnerships – to avoid duplication and maximise scarce resources, working in partnership with other churches or organisations can be beneficial. There may already be another organisation in your community that is addressing the need your project is focusing on, so make sure you take the time to research other initiatives in your area.
  • Feasibility - a feasibility study seeks to identify any potential problems that might be encountered by a future project, work out if these problems can be overcome and ultimately determine if the project is viable. Think through if your fundraising is feasible – are there sources of funds you can approach and for the amount you need?

2. Phases of a capital campaign

Successful capital fundraising appeals are split into two phases – the private phase and the public phase.

During the private phase, all the planning and background work takes place. This is also the phase where lead and major gifts are sought. These are the first major donations to your appeal that get the fundraising started. They are substantial amounts, usually from major individual donors or trusts. Securing these gifts first will give your project momentum and inspire others your fundraising target is possible when you go public.

The public phase is where your fundraising appeal is launched to the public and general gifts are sought. These are usually smaller sums from events, galas, community fundraising and other donors.

3. Case for support

Your Case for Support is a key document that lays out why a potential donor or funder should support your project.

A clear and compelling Case for Support is key – it will act as a foundation to all your fundraising. Usually around 2-4 sides of A4, it should include:

  • What the project is
  • Why your church is doing it
  • The impact the project will have
  • Who will benefit from the project
  • Why and how people should give

You can then adapt this document to use for grant applications and to take to potential individual donors when asking for gifts.

4. Prospect Evaluation

It can be tricky to know who to ask for funds, and how much you should ask for. Undertaking a prospect evaluation exercise is helpful to overcome this.

Make a list of people in your community who may be able to support your project, and give them a score in the following categories:

  • Capacity – what indicators are there that this person has the means to give you a gift?
  • Inclination – has this person got a track record of supporting your church, or other related fundraising initiatives?
  • Interest – how interested are they in the particular project you are fundraising for?
  • Access – who has a personal connection to them and how strong is it?

This can help you to prioritise your fundraising asks and approach the campaign in a more strategic way.

5. Making the ask

Once you have identified key individuals to ask for donations, it’s time to try and secure a gift. Being systematic and structured here will increase your chances of success.

It’s important that before asking someone for a donation, they have been inspired and informed about your project. Take the time to talk them through your plans and invite questions and comments. Your Case for Support document can be a helpful tool here – it can be useful to sit down with a potential donor and take them through it.

Remember, asks that are one-to-one and personal are always more effective.

Church fundraising PC screen